It can be difficult to set boundaries as an MLA, says departing Hannah Bell

It can be difficult to set boundaries as an MLA, says departing Hannah Bell

Green MLA Hannah Bell, who announced Friday she would not be re-offering after six years in the P.E.I. Legislature, shared some thoughts on the job with Island Morning host Mitch Cormier on Monday.

Bell said she took a rare opportunity to disconnect over the weekend.

"I turned my social media off, probably for the first time in five years, on Friday afternoon," said Bell.

That constant connection is part of the problem with being an MLA, she said.

"I did get emails over the Christmas holidays and phone calls and texts just like everybody else who is in this role does. It never stops," she said.

"This is a job. It's a very difficult job, it's a very complicated job, it's got a really weird application process, but this is a job."

But it is a job without a job description, she said, and that can make it difficult to draw boundaries.

"I had quite an argument with supporters about not going to wakes and funerals unless it was somebody I knew," she said.

P.E.I. Legislative Assembly
P.E.I. Legislative Assembly

"They said that's what politicians do, and I said I'm not like that. I would never go to the funeral of someone unless I knew who they were. I don't think that's respectful."

But she added that is her own personal feeling, and she recognizes that other politicians may feel more comfortable in that situation. That in itself is part of the point.

"We need to be more comfortable with MLAs not all being the same," said Bell.

"Which in my case as a single mother meant I don't go to every event. I don't go to everything that's happening in my community because I have other responsibilities too, and nobody gets to tell me what my priorities are."

2022 was a particularly hard year, she said. She suffered through an illness (from which she has fully recovered, she said), her daughter was ill, and her mother was hospitalized.

As an MLA, she struggled to be fully available to her family, which is not a choice anyone should have to make, she said. She made the decision over the Christmas holiday to not re-offer.

Bell said she will continue to work hard as an MLA until the next election, and she added she intends to continue to serve the public beyond that. Bell has experience of making change both inside and outside the legislature.

"It's hard, and it's long, and it's a lot more like playing chess than people recognize," she said.

"But you can also do that from outside."